A Space Odyssey Facts That Are Out Of This World

In one of the film’s most tense sequences, astronaut Dave Bowman finds himself locked outside of the Discovery One in a small maintenance pod. Bowman considers leaving his pod, spacewalking to the main ship, and climbing back inside, but he doesn’t have his helmet. To get back into the ship without suffocating in space, Bowman fires himself through the pod’s escape hatch into an open airlock. It’s an ingenious scene that only runs about 90 seconds in total. In fact, the shot of Bowman launching into the open airlock is even shorter. However, that single shot was extremely dangerous.

A 50th anniversary feature in Vanity Fair explained how the shot was created. Actor Keir Dullea had to dive headfirst through breakaway boards from a platform two stories above the airlock set, falling down toward an upward-tilted camera to convincingly create the illusion that he was launching through weightless space. For safety, he was secured with a single rope connected to a pulley.

What made the stunt lethal?  An enormous film camera was positioned at the bottom of the airlock set to capture the image in a single take. If something had gone wrong, Dullea would’ve crashed directly into the camera. When asked if there had been any other safety precautions besides the rope and its grip, Dullea said if the grip let go of the rope, he would’ve been dead. It’s a lot to go through for a shot, but it is a stand out set piece in a movie full of them.

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